Letter from an elephant, by Juan Arias

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Spain’s King Juan Carlos under fire over elephant hunting trip

Juan Carlos’s expensive trip to Botswana – from which he was flown home injured – arouses anger in recession-hit country.

This letter was written by journalist Juan Arias in response to the King behavior in his hunting trip to Africa:

Dear King of Spain,

I am an elephant from the African country of Batswana.  Where I have heard, your Majesty has recently visited to rest from your labors by hunting us on a safari.  We elephants are gentle, but fierce when attacked.  Our gods, the gods of the Savannah, are also gentle, not vengeful, although they are protective of its inhabitants.

Maybe that is why they wanted to preserve your life, which is important to your country.  Your accident in the base camp, from where you where preparing to hunt us, may have meant to serve as a warning  that it would be better for your Majesty, who has lived longer than any of us live, to dedicate your time to other things instead of killing us.

For example, supporting a Spain that has been failing economically, or the 52% of young adults who are suffering the sting of unemployment after so many years of studying, or you could simply enjoy watching animals run and frolic in their natural habitat, but without guns, with hands empty or holding flowers.

We know that you haven’t done anything illegal by paying thousands of Euros to kill one of us.  The laws of my country allow it.  For many, gratuitously killing animals is like it was in the past capturing Indians and Africans to enslave them.

Just because it is legal, does that make it right?  There are also laws of the heart, that are not written, that come from human feelings, which I have heard are supposed to be more profound than our own, and there are certain examples that a King should set even from his private life.

Your Majesty, from your first speech as a King, you affirmed that you wanted to be a King for all of the Spaniards.  I know that in Spain there are many people that don’t care about animals dying or suffering  and sometimes even enjoy watching it.  But there are also millions of people, especially the young ones, that love animals and want to protect them and cohabitate with them.  I don’t think those millions of Spaniards would like to see the image of their King arriving in this Africa, our territory, with his gun on his shoulder, to entertain himself by shooting us defenseless animals.

We have been told, your Majesty, that you posses one of the best hunting rifle collections in existence.  Can we make a suggestion?  Make a museum out of them and announce to the Spaniards that there King will no longer be killing animals, and that the years of life that he has left (that we hope will outnumber our average lifespan) will be dedicated to life instead of death.

We know that we, the elephants, like the rest of the animals, don’t have rights.  We are born to be hunted and killed, but we would like to remind you that we don’t mean anybody any harm.  We are sensitive and humble, and we can even relate to you, the Homo sapiens.   Zoologists say that we are one of the few animals that respect our dead and one of the few that can recognize ourselves, like humans, in a mirror.

It’s true that for you humans we elephants are useless, we are not necessary for anything, but that shouldn’t give you the right to kill us.  Also today monarchies (and I say this with respect) seem useless for many people, but that doesn’t mean that kings and queens should be hunted.

And talking about Queens, we would like to know what your discreet and dear Queen Sophia thinks about your love for hunting elephants.  She as a woman and as a mother, must know that in our organization in the Savannahs, we live in a matriarchal kingdom.  They, the female elephants, organize and direct our community.  They are loving mothers, they breast feed their children for three to five years and they suffer like you human beings when their children are killed on a whim.

Lastly we hope that your grandchildren and great grandchildren, Majesties, one day could have fun without the need to come to Africa to rip out our ivory tusks to adorn their royal palaces with their trophies of death.

Maybe, they won’t have the option to do it anyways, because right now there are only 30,000 of us left in the world, and at the pace that we are currently being killed your grand children will not be able to hunt us, because we will be extinct.  They will have to conform to hunting cockroaches which have existed for millions of years and are resistant even to atomic radiation.  We, are not.  We are larger, but more fragile.  Maybe that’s why kids love us so much.  Alive, not dead.

We wish that you, your Majesty, in the name of our gods, recover soon from the problem that we have caused you, which wasn’t intended to kill you but to make you think that it would be better for you, your Majesty, if at the time you leave this Planet, the elephants that are still alive can cry for you instead of celebrating the loss of an executioner.

The winds of the Jungle are mysterious, your Majesty.  Why don’t you give us your rifles in life?

With all the respect and in the name of all the elephants in Botswana.

Author: Juan Arias

Translated by Matthew Gulley and Clara Losio

The Sad Price of Death

This article from “El País,” the highest-circulation daily newspaper in Spain, includes the list of prices given to customers by travel agencies. Unfortunately, this article is available only in Spanish, so I have only translated the lines that shocked me the most, the prices that people pay for permission to kill animals while on their African safaris.

These prices vary by weight and size, and of course, by animal type:

To kill a baby elephant costs 9.000 euros, and to kill an adult elephant, like the one picked by the King Juan Carlos I, up to 90.000 euros.

To kill a giraffe costs 2.200 euros and to kill a baboon only 350 euros. The price to kill a lion depends on its gender, the list does not include these prices, they must be the highest of the list.